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Basic Bread - Kneading but never get silky/smooth

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RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Basic Bread - Kneading but never get silky/smooth

Hi,

I want to start learning to bake. I've watch a few youtube videos, online recipes, and even my grandma's recipe, but seems to never succeed when I try them. I suspect I've failed on kneading. But what do I know :D

I've googled a lot and found a similiar topic in TFL, but it's quite different from my case.

The latest recipe I used is for a sweet bread. As I only planned to just practice, I halve the amount of ingredients needed. It became:

250g bread flour,
125ml warm water,
2-3tsp of sugar,
30g margarine,
1 tbsp salt,
1 egg,
7-8g of instant yeast

Here is my latest trial,

I mixed all the dry ingredient first, including the salt. I then made a well and pour the water and egg, then mixed them with wooden spoon. I kept on stirring untill they incorporated into one ball of sticky dough.

I lightly floured the table, and put the dough there. I started to knead it. The way I knead was, as I watch from videos, by holding the dough with one hand, squish it with the other hand, spread it towards, fold the dough back, turn a little bit, and repeat. I rarely sprinkle flour as some say most hand kneading mistake is using too much flour. I didn't do the French hand kneading (pick up, slam, stretch, cover, repeat) because the dough is not as sticky and wet as in videos I watch on French knead.

I kept on kneading for like 45min to 1hour, but the dough never reach a state of being silky or smooth. Quite elastic, though. But not enough to pass the window pane test. Not like how I see in videos. The dough is sticky to my hand and work surface. When I squish, the outer part of the dough teared.

Giving up, I put them to rest for about one hour, and it expanded. I shaped it randomly, then rest them again for about 20min. The dough was still not smooth. It got wrinkles. I put them in the oven, 220C, for around half an hour. I observed the bread. The bread never get browned. It had the same color as when it's a dough. The bread got hard skin and yellowish body. It didn't taste good (for me) and I accepted it as a failure.

I think that was my 7th failure. It seems I'm not talented in bread making. But I'm still curious though.

So, I want to ask. What are the errors? How can it fix them? Did I use too little salt? Did I mix/knead it wrong? Or was it just not long enough? Did halving the ingredient has something to do with it?

I didn't give rest between mixing and kneading, as most recipes don't. I don't know much about humidity, the recipe I use has the same water-flour ratio as my grandma's recipe.

I'd be happy to hear some advices and corrections :D
Thank you..!

P.S. pardon my English

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

1. I've never been kneading for 45 minutes, let alone an hour.  If you knead by hand, 15 minutes should be more than enough.

2. 1 tbsp of salt is 15 gr.  That's just too much for this recipe, cut it by half (at least, I'd only use 1 teaspoon max.).

3. The yeast:  is it active dry yeast or bread machine yeast?  If not bread machine yeast then you need to activate it first. (look up on the site).  Your bread rose but at what temperature did you let it ferment and for how long until it doubled?

4. You are sure that it definitely was bread flour and was labeled as such?

5. The water:  how warm was warm?  Just checking, it doesn't have to be really warm, just not stone cold.

6. With the egg+water, hydration looks ok but you're a bit heavy on fat with the margarine that goes is, I'd cut back on that

7. Are you sure about oven temperature?  If yes, for this type of bread, with the egg, butter, sugar, imo 220 is too high, I'd go to 190 or 200.  What type of oven (gas/electric)? And what type of heating (I wouldn't do convection).

What i'd advise you first of all is to take a look at the tutorials on the site and bake a basic wjhite bread, just flour, water, salt, yeast.  No eggs, sugar, margarine....  Try it and see how that goes.

Heath's picture
Heath

I've never been kneading for 45 minutes, let alone an hour.  If you knead by hand, 15 minutes should be more than enough.

I second what Xenophon says, especially about the kneading.  I wouldn't physically be able to knead traditionally for more than this time anyway, and have always had decent results.

You might want to look into other ways of kneading, for instance stretch and fold, or slap and fold.  These are both popular on this site: stretch and fold being the most popular (from what I've read) because it develops the gluten very well with almost no effort.  Here and here are the videos I found most useful when I started out.  This method of kneading can be applied to almost any recipe.  Three sets of stretch and folds is usually enough, although that seems incredible if you've never used the technique before.

 

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

@Heath

Thanks for your reply!

You guys make me wonder if I really did go through more thank 30min. It tired me out, though..

This is the first time I see stretch and fold method. The slap and fold one is Bertinet's? I want to try Bertinet's method, but my dough is different from the one used on those videos. It's kinda difficult to explain it, but my dough is quite firm. it looks quite like in this video but not as smooth (I'm not sure, it looks smooth on the video). And mine still stick to my hand, but not as in slap-and-fold where they can stretch the dough while it sticks on the work surface. Can I use stretch-and-fold or slap-and-fold with that kind of dough?

three sets is enough? I thought it need to be done several times like in this video 

 

Heath's picture
Heath

"The slap and fold one is Bertinet's? I want to try Bertinet's method, but my dough is different from the one used on those videos. It's kinda difficult to explain it, but my dough is quite firm. it looks quite like in this video but not as smooth..."

I think slap and fold is usually done with doughs that are looser than the one in the above video.  I'd use stretch and fold on that, personally, but others may disagree.

"...three sets is enough? I thought it need to be done several times like in this video"

That's slap and fold in the second video, and needs to be done until the gluten feels sufficiently developed and the dough feels smooth - usually about the same amount of time as with traditional kneading (10-15 mins).

Sorry if I wasn't clear, it's stretch and fold that's usually (but not always) done just 3 times (with at least 20 minutes in between each fold).  Again, you need to develop a feel for when the dough's ready.  Stop when the dough's in danger of tearing if you do any more.

I'd really start with a much simpler recipe, as Xenophon suggests.

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

So it's still possible to do stretch and fold on my 'firm dough'. okay then!

Yes it's slap and fold on the second video.

Oh I misunderstood. I should look more into stretch and fold technique.
I've always tought to keep on kneading until the dough won't stick to my hand and pass the window pane test. So, is that wrong?

Will do. I thought the one with egg is the simpler one. I even started using recipe with egg because I thought it's for beginner rather than the one without. lol.

Thank you for your advice. I'll try it again.

Heath's picture
Heath

I've always tought to keep on kneading until the dough won't stick to my hand and pass the window pane test. So, is that wrong?

No, that's good advice, but there are so many variables to making bread (type of flour, water quality and percentage, additions like fat, sugar and eggs etc) that it can vary a lot from dough to dough.  That's why it's a good idea to start on the simplest of recipes so that there's as few variables as possible.  Some people never manage to get their dough to pass the window pane test but still produce excellent loaves, so I wouldn't worry if you don't get the results you're looking for after 15 minutes of vigorous kneading - that should still be enough kneading for most white wheat doughs (unless it explicitly says otherwise in the recipe).

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

agree! soo many variables that I had problem figuring which one is the cause of disappointment :D
I see. So many videos show how smooth and beautiful their dough are I thought it's a failure if it's not as smooth as that.
Well then I'll try a simple 15 minutes next time. Maybe it give better result than 45 minute

Thanks, Heath!

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Hi! Thanks for your reply

1. That mean something must have been wrong on my kneading or ingredient, isn't it? 15 minute kneading, dough is still sticky, let alone elastic and smooth.

2. sorry,, I mistake tsp and tbsp. the recipe actually state tablespoon, but I also mistake it and put 1 teaspoon instead. So that means the salt is twice as much is needed, right? 500g flour means 1 teaspoon. Noted

3. The only yeast I found on the store is this one brand, which has been there since a long time ago, and is stated instant yeast. The recipe and tutorial of bread in my country also never mention to activate the yeast. Well, actually I've tried to 'activate' it on my first trials. But when I'm aware I use instant one, I don't activate it anymore.
I left it on room temperature. Around 28C, I guess? Hm, I didn't pay much attention on rising, I usually wait for 30-50 minutes.

4. Yes I'm sure of it. I have both all purpose and bread flour, and I used the bread flour.

5. I mix room temperature water with boiled water. I can't give precise measurement. By the way, should we still use warm water if it's instant yeast? Some recipes use cold one, especially the one from my country.

6. Okay. Actually I only use margarine on the latest trial. 

7. At least that's what stated on the oven thermometer. I don't if it's accurate. I'm not even sure my if oven still on a good shape. If I went with just water flour salt yeast, is 220C still to high? I think some recipe use that temperature. Gas. Hm I have no idea of the type of heating. I think I should google it.

 

Actually, at first I didn't use eggs and margarine at all. I use bagel recipe from many sites. I started using my country's recipe because I thought it matched the climate well.

So, what would possibly cause the dough to be sticky after a long kneading? wrong kneading technique? Humid environment? Or it's supposed to be that way?

by the way I came across this: http://cooking.blogoverflow.com/2012/05/bread-hydration-experiment/
without the egg, is the recipe I used 50% hydration? It's said that 50% hydration is not sticky at all, but also not smooth.
The bread I made has similar crumbs and texture like the 50% one on the site, while the color is more pale but close to the 70% one. 

Sorry I asked too much. I'm pretty much clueless. I'll try using the recipe on TFL on next occasion.
If I want to use half of the recipe, then white bread recipe on TFL would be:

200g Bread Flour
1teaspoon salt
1teaspoon yeast
120ml of water

Did I calculate it right? that'd be 60% water?
I can't wait trying it..

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

1. Depends on the actual hydration but what's sure is that if you follow the basic recipe mentioned at the end of your post, you're good.  Sometimes it can be sticky, certainly in high humidity.  I'm in India and during monsoon here it'll always be sticky.  Just remember:  if you have to choose between too wet or to dry, always go for too wet imo.

2. No, if you use 500 gr. flour then about 10 grams of salt should be ok, that's 2 standard teaspoons (no huge heap obviously)

3. For the yeast, I only use 'bread machine' or 'instant active yeast' that you can just sprinkle in the flour. There is that, then fresh yeast and then another type that you have to put in water (with a bit of sugar added I believe) stir so it dissolves and then wait, it'll start foaming after 10 min. or so (slightly), then you add it to the flour.  Try to find out for sure.

4. ok

5. If room temperature is 28 centigrade, then do not mix with boiling water, just use room temperature water.

6. ok.  Make sure your hydration is good.  50% is very low, I believe for bagels it's about 55% but that's a dry dough.  For normal bread, aim between 60 and 70% (recipe on TFL is good)

7. You need to make sure about that oven.  Gas dries stuff out very quickly so put a big pan on the bottom and (carefully) pour boiling water in it right before you put the dough in.  You need steam.  If your dough is fermenting, cover it with some oiled cling film if your humidity is low, it must not dry out.  For 'normal' bread dough, 200-220 is fine, if you add stuff like butter, sugar, eggs...it's a bit too high.  If you can, get a thermometer that you can place in the oven.  I don't know where you live but here in India the locally produced gas ovens are absolutely not precise and it's very hard to bake well in them.  Convection is when a fan runs to circulate the hot air band get an even temperature anywhere in the oven. Trouble is, if you don't have abundant steam, this dries everything ouit very fast.

My money is on a problemm with your oven but give the TFL basic recipe a try and get back to us.

 

These are just a couple of ideas, I hope the experts (I'm just an amateur baker) will chime in.

 

Good luck!

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

1. So it means it's okay if the dough is not as silky and smooth? By wet you mean is still stick to your hand a little?

2. Oh okay.

3. Quite sure mine is instant. But I'll check again :D

5. I see. Will do.

6. Yes. I've just googled about hydration and found bagel is around that. Dry? is it this dry? Okay. I'll try bagel later.

7. I've read that not all oven can handle steam. How to make sure if mine is able to?
it must not dry out to prevent a skin forming? I think I've read it somewhere about a skin may be formed.
I live in Indonesia. The oven is also unreliable. Lol.
"it's very hard to bake well in them" so how do you manage to bake well? Do you use different oven?
I guess mine is not convection then. It has heat source from bottom and top, but I used the bottom one only. What would happen if it dries out too early in the oven?

So, again, the mistake is not really on the sticky not silky dough, but more to the oven?
Maybe I'll take a photo next time.

Well, I learnt a lot from you.

Thanks a lot!

I hope I get it right next time.

Xenophon's picture
Xenophon

I'm 90% certain.

I've read that not all oven can handle steam. How to make sure if mine is able to?
it must not dry out to prevent a skin forming? I think I've read it somewhere about a skin may be formed.
I live in Indonesia. The oven is also unreliable. Lol.
"it's very hard to bake well in them" so how do you manage to bake well? Do you use different oven?
I guess mine is not convection then. It has heat source from bottom and top, but I used the bottom one only. What would happen if it dries out too early in the oven?

I'm an expat in India, brought over my cooking range from Europe.  Gas on top, electricity for the oven.  If your oven is like the locally ones here, you won't be able to break it by putting a big pan with boiling water on the bottom, don't worry.  They're built like a tank, but unfortunately also have the finesse of one.  And when it says 220 it might be that or 170 or 250...you never know for sure, it's just very difficult, you need an oven thermometer and (lots) of experimentation.  The problems you can get if the temp is not right are exactly what happened to your bread I'm afraid.

Good luck and remember...good things come to those with patience...experimentation and getting to know your oven will be the thing here I believe.

 

 

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Hi,

How's your weekend?

It seems I came into problem again. I tried using TFL recipe for basic bread:
200g Bread Flour
1teaspoon salt
1teaspoon yeast
120ml of water

it's supposed to be 60% hydration, is it not?

When I mixed the ingredient the dough became dry! It's not sticky and quite tough. it retains it's form when I try to knead it, and it tears when I try to stretch it.

it looks like this:
Dough

I don't remember making a dough mix this hard. I used to have the quite sticky one, which never get smooth.

was it wrong? Did it have something to do with the number of yeast used, or the lack of sugar?

 

Cheers

Heath's picture
Heath

had you been kneading when you took the picture?  What method of kneading were you using?

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Honestly, I don't remember :D

I made it Sunday, but can't post it right away as TFL server was down I assume. So I don't really remember about that.

But as far as I remember, it just as dry when I was mixing.
I didn't really knead it. I want to try stretch-and-fold, but it's un-stretchable. I kneaded with my palm.

What are the possibilities? Bad yeast? Not warm enough water? lack of sugar? lack of yeast? fyi, I used instant yeast.

Sorry I never get it right up until now :D

Heath's picture
Heath

I think the dough was too dry, as David said.  60% hydration is on the low side, and some flours absorb more water than others.

Why not try using 130 ml water next time (which would make it a more usual 65% hydration)?

Don't be afraid to add a little more water if the dough seems too dry.  Small amounts won't change the recipe, and may be needed if your flour is thirstier than the one used in the original recipe.

Good luck :-)

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

I can't imagine if I'm going to make bagel with 55% hydration

say the flour has a very high absorption, would it result in lower hydration bread? or 60% hydration stays 60% no matter how high the flour absorption is?

okay will do! I'll go with 130ml then.

Thanks for the advice (again), Heath! :D

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

You will improve. And people here are sure to help you along the way. I can't offer any answers here but I know if the the dough is too dry you can add a tsp of water and it makes a huge difference. I say "if" because I dont know enough to say your dough is too dry.  Heck, even running hands under the faucet and then kneading can hydrate dry dough enough to make a difference. 

I personally always run the hands under water when mixing the dough. And sometimes I oil my hands if I am kneading dough.  That really seems to get the dough smooth. 

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Thanks!
They sure did help. I'm quite afraid of adding water because it would change the hydration calculation.
Well it might be just me. Thing for sure is the dough didn't stick to my hand at all.

When I'm able to make the basic bread, I will surely try your method next time.

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Hi,

I used the same recipe but with 130ml now as suggested. But in the middle of mixing, I added another 10ml of water because the dough were too dry to form into one. So was it 70% hydration now?

After I added water, the dough formed into ball, not sticky, but not too dry, and quite firm. I kneaded for 15mt, using the traditional knead method, cause I don't know how to stretch and fold such firm dough. It still failed the window-pane test, but further kneading didn't do any good. So I let it rise for 30mt in a wrapped container. I oiled the dough and container a bit.

I'm not sure if it doubled the size, but I took it out, divide into 4, and shape them. It's quite difficult to shape them, because they feel like having a skin that prevent them to merge when shaped. They folded instead. But it doesn't really matter, I guess. Then I let them rest for another 15mt. I didn't let them raise for too long as directed on TFL recipe, because I don't like how my bread smell last trials. Article said raising dough for too long caused the beery smell and taste.

This time they didn't rise as much. Not as much as my trials before. Then my mother coated them with egg yolk. I put them on the oven on max temp bottom side only. I'm not sure how hot that was, because I doubt the thermometer showed the right temp. I baked them for around 45m.

This is how it turned out:

The Bread (?)

It has a hard skin and crunchy. Brown, because of the egg yolk. So I'm not sure if it would pale or not without the egg yolk. Still smelly, as smelly as when it was a dough. I still prefer cheap white bread from local store.

What do you guys think? :\
I'm still not satisfied because the bread crumb's texture is kind of dense and smelly. I think it didn't turn out right as described on the recipe. It looks good, though, because of the egg yolk.

Heath's picture
Heath

The bread looks ok from the picture, but it's small and I can't see any detail.  You can cut down on the amount of yeast you're using if you wish, though the rising times would be longer.

I notice you live in Indonesia and that it's hot and humid there.  Maybe you need some help from someone who lives in your area as to the ingredients and water you use?  Dough at 70% hydration shouldn't feel firm and dry, so I'm wondering if the problem's with the flour or yeast?

Maybe you should start a thread asking for help from someone from Indonesia as they might have a better idea of the problems you face.

The only suggestion I have is to keep adding more water (just a little at a time) until the dough feels more workable.  I must admit this is outside my area of expertise - sorry I can't be of much help :-(

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

Maybe I need to take a course or see someone make it. Lol

Indeed. As far as I know 70% should be very liquid and sticky, but it was even drier than on previous recipe. TFL recipe used less yeast than my previous recipe, would it have anything to do with the dough being sticky or dry?

I might try using local recipe then.

It's okay, Heath! Thank you for your help. I'm motivated to try again because of TFL.

azmar's picture
azmar

You might try cutting down the yeast by up to half.

Where I am, daytime temperatures are similar to Indonesia - ranging from 28 to 33 degrees Celcius. I find that if I use the recommended amount of yeast in most recipes, the dough rises way too fast and has an unpleasant alcoholic smell.

I find around 0.7% yeast (0.7g yeast for every 100g flour) usually gives me better flavour and a more controllable rise time of 1.5 to 2 hrs.

You didn't post the recipe instructions, but just in case: in a hot climate, you don't need to use warm water as many recipes direct. I usually use cold water straight from the fridge to slow the fermentation down.

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

I used recipe from TFL basic bread, cut half the ingrediet and convert it to gram. Yes, I've read alcholic smell might be caused of too long rising time or too low baking heat (?) But maybe it's better to cut the amount of yeast like you said. Thanks for the advice!

ericreed's picture
ericreed

I would try a different one. Start with something easy like a no-knead bread (if you have a dutch oven or similar).

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/03/basic-no-knead-bread-dough-jim-lahey-recipe.html

RavenDrake's picture
RavenDrake

I don't have dutch oven. Just regular oven. Is dutch oven a mandatory?

I haven't read the article, though :D

ericreed's picture
ericreed

Is a tightly lidded pot large enough for the bread. It's to trap the steam from the loaf, replicating the conditions more or less in a professional oven and gives you better oven spring and crust. There are various other methods to try and get steam in a home oven, generally preheating a pan in the oven and pouring a little water in at the beginning. You'd still ideally want the bread on a baking stone in that case. It's not the end of the world if you don't have any of that though.

http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2010/12/27/three-ways-to-get-steam-into-your-oven-for-a-great-crust-new-video